The Awakening, San Ignacio Belize

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It was a long day of traveling the night before and I was looking forward to sleeping in as I had no set plans today. Imagine being awoken at 5:30 in the morning with that mind-set. I was thoroughly upset. Half asleep, I can’t recognize what the noise is that awoke me. I listen carefully and I realize the source of the racket.

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Keel-billed Toucan

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Aracari Toucan

Parakeets, parrots, toucans and other birds of paradise chirping in the trees have stirred me out of my sleep. After realizing this, I couldn’t help but smile and I knew this was an omen for things to come here in Belize. How many people have birds of paradise as their alarm clock.


The bungalow I’m renting is a not-so-modern room made of wood and corrugated tin roof with window sills but no glass panes. The opening is only covered by a screen and wooden blinds allowing the outside noise to seep into my room. I chose these accommodations to be closer to nature but I didn’t realize it would be like this. The biggest butterfly I had ever seen had entered my room with its body seemingly as big as a sparrow. Outside my door was a highway of leaf cutter ants running in both directions.

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the tree is 250 feet high, branch is almost 2 feet in diameter, iguana is 5 to 6 feet long

The giant green iguanas, which can grow up to 6 feet, were also known to stroll through the grounds on their way to the near by river. The hotel was just a couple hundred yards from the town of San Ignacio which made it really convenient. San Ignacio is a small town with two main streets and the size of two blocks but is the center of the Cayo District.


The surrounding population floods the town on Saturdays for the weekly market to buy and sell goods made or grown locally. The local economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and is dominated by the Amish who migrated here from Canada seeking cheap land almost a hundred years ago. 


Amish parking lot at a church near Barton Creek

On my visit to Belize in 2011, I had to postpone it from October to December due to the heavy rain and flooding in the Yucatán Peninsula, heaviest in 50 years with deaths in the thousands. During my stay here the rivers were still high and I was limited in my activities.  Most of my expeditions consisted of sight seeing near town. 

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I had planned on hiking to three waterfalls in one area but had to settle on a local waterfall, Cristo Rey, in the outskirts of town. I didn’t mind because I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the waterfall and I had it all to myself as the locals were either at school or at work. 


My first day, I hiked from town to the Mayan ruins of Cahal Pech. The grounds of the complex was shady with trees allowed to grow on the grounds but this also made the inside of the ruins damp.



hand-cranked ferry of Xunantunich, the only way to get to the ruins

I also took a taxi to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich which was further out from the town. The complex was well groomed,  no trees,  and the sun beat down on visitors who dared to climb the pyramids. 


Barton Creek Cave


Barton Creek

With the recent flooding, there weren’t that many tourist in town so I had to do my expedition alone. On the 2nd day I hired a guide to take me to Barton Creek, a beautiful creek with a notorious past. The Mayan’s use to sacrifice children in the caves. My guide and I took a canoe through the cave and bones and skulls could be seen embedded in the stone after hundreds of years of erosion.

During my stay here, I saw a wide variety of wildlife and would recommend visiting the interior of Belize if you are interested in visiting the rainforest and can’t make it out to the Amazon.


for another Belize article, see my blog on San Pedro